Asked in Divorce and Marriage LawStatutes of Limitations
Is Maryland a community property state when a divorce?
July 18, 2008 7:21PM
No. Maryland is an non-community property or equitable distribution state. There are at least two types of state schemes for the division of marital property at the time of divorce or death. One of these types is called "equitable distribution", by which the Court is supposed to look at the whole picture of the family's assets, debts, and resources, and determine what the most equitable division of each, or the total taken as a whole, would be. Another type of distribution scheme is that of "community property", such as you have in California and other states. In a community property jurisdiction, most property acquired during the marriage (except for gifts or inheritances) is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, annulment or death. Joint ownership is automatically presumed by law in the absence of specific evidence that would point to a contrary conclusion for a particular piece of property.
Division of community property may take place by item, by splitting all items or by value. In some jurisdictions, such as California, a 50/50 division of community property is mandated by law; in others, such as Texas, a divorce court may decree an "equitable distribution" of community property, which may result in an unequal division of such. In non-community property states property may be divided by equitable distribution. Generally speaking, the property that each partner brings into the marriage or receives by gift, bequest or devise during marriage is called separate property (i.e., not community property). Division of community debts may not be the same as division of community property. For example, in California, community property is required to be divided "equally" while community debt is required to be divided "equitably". Common Law
Maryland does not allow the creation of a "common law" marriage, a relationship in which a couple lives together but have not participated in a lawful ceremony. Unlike some other states, in Maryland a couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. You do not need legal action to end such a relationship, if it was created in Maryland However, Maryland does recognize as valid, common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met. As a result, legal action is needed to dissolve legal "common law" marriages performed in other states and foreign countries in compliance with their licensing and ceremonial regulations. The courts are available for determining the rights of parties now living in Maryland. As long as a couple lives together as husband and wife, the question of validity of their marriage is unlikely to arise. However, for purposes of inheritance or the benefits of pension plans or social security, a valid marriage is required.